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Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to God that he would stop swearing lasted four days

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte is escorted during a departure ceremony at Manila's international airport, Philippines, 25 October 2016. Duterte leaves for Japan to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two are expected to agree on expanding bilateral ties in areas of maritime security and defense cooperation, according to news reports.
EPA/Francis R. Malasig
Loose cannon.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Old habits die hard. In the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has long been known for cussing and swearing in speeches. He did it as the mayor of Davao City, and he’s continued with the habit since becoming president in late June, launching invective-laced tirades against everyone from US president Barack Obama and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to the entire European Union.

But Duterte promised on Oct. 27 to stop swearing—he even promised to God, he said, who made the initial request. (Duterte has a volatile relationship with religion and the man upstairs.)

It didn’t take long for the crude language to return. On Oct. 31, he let loose profanities while addressing police in Davao City, saying the English equivalent of, “Never enter into illegal drugs. Son of a b****, I will kill you. I’m telling you.”

He cursed a second time on Nov. 2, railing against the United States government stopping the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines, due to concern over his blood-soaked war on drugs, which has involved extrajudicial killings by the thousands. He said in a televised speech, “Look at these monkeys, the 26,000 firearms we wanted to buy, they don’t want to sell… Son of a b****, we have many homemade guns here. These American fools.”

While Duterte’s regular use of expletives might have charmed some voters during his presidential run, suggesting a refreshingly different candidate, as a head of state his habit has been a turn-off for many—including the man who persuaded him enter the race, former president Fidel V. Ramos.

To the surprise of Duterte’s cabinet, Ramos announced his resignation as a special envoy to China on Oct. 31. In an Oct. 22 newspaper column, Ramos lamented Duterte getting stuck in controversies about the extrajudicial killings, insulting world leaders, and using “cuss-words instead of civilized language.”

With Duterte about four months in to his six-year term—and seemingly unable to control himself—the cuss-words may continue for some time to come.

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